NASA is challenging middle school students to design the future of air transportation, and NASA software will put them to the test.

NASA’s Future Flight Design Challenge, developed at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California’s Silicon Valley, is designed to engage students in developing solutions for tomorrow’s overcrowded airports. To help students develop their designs, NASA experts will provide feedback via the Internet throughout the challenge. To strengthen the challenge’s appeal, NASA’s Airspace Systems Program will use Airspace Concept Evaluation System (ACES) software under development by NASA aeronautics experts to simulate the winning designs.

“Adding the use of the ACES software to this project will add a new and exciting dimension to the already successful NASA Quest challenge,” said Mark Leon, education director at NASA Ames. “For the first time, students will be able to access the tools of a state-of-the-art software system, currently unavailable to the public,” he added.

ACES is a modeling and simulation tool under development by the Virtual Airspace Simulation Technology element of the Virtual Airspace Modeling and Simulation Project at NASA Ames. The tool is being developed in order to evaluate the cost and benefits of new ideas in air traffic management across the entire National Airspace System.

“Inspiring students is part of NASA’s mission; therefore, we are striving to involve young people in developing solutions for tomorrow’s National Airspace System,” said Lisa Bjarke, a manager in the Virtual Airspace Simulation Technologies element. “The ACES software will help us provide that inspiration by bringing their ideas to life.

Students can now register for the challenge, which begins on March 7 and ends with a Webcast on May 4, 2005. Last year, 26 teams representing more than 800 students from 10 U.S. states, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, England and Oman, participated in the design challenge.

To further improve the impact of Future Flight Design, the Ames Educational Technology Team will collaborate with teachers to evaluate the site for content, ease of use and student impact. During this formal evaluation, teachers will incorporate Future Flight Design into their classrooms over a six-week period and will provide feedback to the Web site’s design team.

“The Ames Educational Technology Team is always looking to improve the products we provide to the educational community,” said Rebecca Sims, evaluation coordinator for the team. “Soliciting the help of teachers will provide the team with first-hand knowledge of how students interact with our products that we can incorporate into updates of Future Flight Design.”

Future Flight Design was co-funded by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate education council at NASA headquarters in Washington and NASA’s Airspace Systems Program at NASA Ames, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to K-12 education.

The Ames Educational Technology Team produces a wide range of multimedia educational materials for students, teachers, parents and other NASA enthusiasts through the NASA Quest Web site. Educational products include the aeronautics-themed ‘Robin Whirlybird’ and ‘Virtual Skies’. NASA Quest is an award-winning educational Web site that is a valuable resource for educators across the United States and abroad.

For more information about the Future Flight Design Challenge and participating in the formal evaluation of Future Flight Design, visit:

For more information about the Virtual Airspace Modeling and Simulation Project and the Airspace Concept Evaluation System software, visit:

For more information about NASA Quest, visit:

The Airspace Systems Program Web site can be accessed at: